How To Choose The Right Fishing Rod

Upstate Outdoors
January 11, 2019 - 9:41 am

Phillip Gentry



At first blush, fishing rods have nearly all the same components – a long slender rod, called the blank, guides that the line flows through from the fishing reel to the rod tip, a handle where you hold the rod, and a reel seat that secures the reel to the rod.

Fishing rods come in three main categories – bait casting rods, spinning rods, and fly rods. There are also a small number of specialty rods that might have characteristics of one or more of these categories.

In general, bait casting rods will be used with the reel and guides pointing up toward the angler and spinning rods will be used with the reel and guides pointing down or away from the angler. Fly rods are set up like spinning rods in this respect but are dramatically different.

Between the reel seat and the first guide, you’ll find the specifications of the rod printed on the rod’s blank. The specifications will list the rods model number, it’s length, it’s action, and sometimes the line class given in a range.

While many rods are interchangeable between species, it helps to know the quarry you’re after. A heavy action bass fishing rod will vary greatly from a heavy action offshore trolling rod.

Action is the amount of bend the rod has when pressure is applied at the tip. A fast action rod will bend in only the top third or less of the blank, a medium or moderate action will bend in the top half or so and a slow action will bend starting in the lower third of the rod. The manufacturer may also specify grades in between.

Fast action rods are good for most applications involving average casting distances and single hooks while medium actions provide greater casting distance and work well using treble hooks. Light action rods are generally applicable to smaller sized baits and lures. The type of lure you use will usually determine the action of the rod you should use.

The rod’s power describes it’s strength or lifting power. Many manufacturers are getting away from using the old categories of heavy, medium heavy, medium, light, and ultralight to describe the rod’s power and are using line classes instead. It’s important to stay within the lines stated classification as heavy power rods may snap lighter lines. The size fish and type of cover being fished often dictates what power/line class you’ll need.

The rod blank composition dictates the quality, performance and price of the rod. Graphite and fiberglass are the two most common materials with graphite having surpassed fiberglass usage many years ago. Terms like IM6, IM7, and IM8 are industry trade names for graphite and are not standard between manufacturers but will help to compare quality blanks from the same manufacturer.

Modulus is another non-standard term used to describe the stiffness of the graphite. Most anglers believe the best way to select a rod over IM or modulus ratings is by how the rod feels in their hands.

Finally, the composition of the line guides, handle, and reel seat will be strong indicators of the quality and cost of a fishing rod. Guides range from stainless steel on the low end to metal frames with ceramic inserts made of silicon carbide on the high end and several grades of lesser materials in between.

Cork handles are generally considered higher end than foam but there is great variation in the thickness and craftsmanship among cork handles. How they perform when wet is a great indicator.

Reel seats are fairly standard. The material that seats between the rod and the reel, ranging from graphite to plastic, dictates how much feel the angler will have between the rod and the reel.

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